I go scopeless, mooch telescope
time, and take lots of photos
images and text Copyright Mike Lockwood, 2010
this article, I thought I'd mostly let the photos do the talking.
I hope they give you a sense of just what a great experience
event like the Okie-Tex Star Party really is.
attendance set a new record - over 400 people attended, making the
field almost appear full, but not overcrowded like some events.
Of course, by the end of the week some of the people are new
friends, and are just about the nicest people you could ever meet.
to the allergy problems I've had in previous years, I opted to sleep in
a bunkhouse. This helped me a great deal, and I didn't have
trouble with allergies. I even went the whole star party
a nosebleed, making it one of the most enjoyable years for me.
course I also enjoyed seeing people having fun using my optics.
didn't bring a telescope this year. After moving, building a
shop, and making quite a few mirrors, I needed a break. So,
I brought eyepieces, a focuser-mounted Paracorr Type 2 (SIPS
system), as well as my camera and some lenses. I enjoyed
traveling light, and got to use my optics in telescopes of
The Okie-Tex Star party is about a 17-hour drive for those of us
from east central Illinois. I made the trip with John Pratte,
owner of JPAstrocraft,
On the way, we stopped at a park in Rolla, Kansas, and, being from
fairly windy Illinois, I had to snap a photo of this sign.
the last ~30-mile stretch of road, I scouted spots for a photo of the
"Road to Okie-Tex", and on the way home, we stopped and I captured this
image. I think it sums up the drive between Boise City and
star party quite nicely - a whole lot of nothing, and candy to an
the similarly flat (although usually wetter) plains of Illinois, we
brought John Pratte's 25" F/4, a beautiful telescope, pictured below.
It features John's superb workmanship and my optics.
one night we worked the power all the way up to the 3.7mm Ethos,
viewing the Trifid Nebula, M20. The nebula filled the
and the detail in the dark lanes was spectacular. It gave
wonderful, sharp views of many other objects as well. That's
happens when you put good optics in a finely engineered mirror cell and
Of course, I would get in big trouble with Rick if I didn't immediately
follow up that fine instrument with one of the newest Starmaster
models, the 20" F/3.3 Super-FX. This telescope features a
primary made by me and a secondary tested, and refigured if necessary,
by me. As far as I'm concerned, it is one of the finest
instruments available on the market today, and certainly the
fastest-cooling 20" Newtonian on the market. We had
fun pushing the power up on lots of planetaries, as well as Jupiter,
when the seeing allowed. Some shadow transits and white spots
were particularly memorable.
Here is Willard with his 20" F/3.3 Super-FX, and my shadow is sneaking
into the photo! For this week, we placed the Starlight SIPS system
(fixed Paracorr, mounted on the base of the focuser) on this telescope
so that Willard didn't ever have to tune the Paracorr when he changed
is a dilligent observer, and he made the most of his time under the
dark skies. Here he is observing as the winter sky rises over
Taste of the Event
one afternoon I climbed the ridge to the east of Camp Billy Joe, the
site of the star party, and hiked south to see if I could get a photo
from an interesting perspective, showing the surroundings.
result was the photo below - I think it captures the location nicely.
vendor hall also serves as a place to serve meals. This is
line waiting for dinner one night. As you can see, while
one can browse the vendors' wares as the line advances.
the chow line, these ladies will make sure your are fed like a local,
with hearty ranch food.
how do you keep a location dark? You work at it.
light shields that will hopefully go up on the relatively few nearby
lights, and hopefully more will go up in towns in the vicinity as the
word spreads that lights don't have to blind you or pollute the sky in
order to let you see what's going on outside your home or business.
what do you do when you get hungry after observing for several hours?
Opening at 10pm (I think) and closing around 3am (unless it's
cloudy), the Cosmic Cafe is an endless source for late-night fuel, in
the form of burgers, coffee, and many other great food items.
This is what it looks like from the outside, with
Speaking of lights, this is my kind of night lighting - an electric
light that is OFF silhouetted by the summer Milky Way.
Billy Joe is a Christian camp, so the cross on the hill above it can be
an appealing photographic target. Too bad it's not the
I'll end with my signature shot, the Pleaides rising behind the star
party mascots, two pink plastic flamingos that watch over the event
from atop the east ridge.
I hope to see you and your telescope at a future Okie-Tex Star Party.
Clear, dark skies, warm weather, good friends, some good beverages, and
Lockwood, Lockwood Custom Optics